China represents the most lucrative and frankly un-ignorable mobile market in the world, however as with any market, cracking the code and succeeding in the app market is not a walk in the park. Here are some key factors you might want to consider when developing and launching your mobile APP in China.


The Market:

China’s mobile penetration rate is relatively high (93%), with a population of 1.3 billion it is the biggest Mobile market in the world.

RANK Country or regions Number of mobile phones Population Connections

/100 citizens (in %)

WORL 6,880,000,000 7,012,000,000 97
1 China 1,276,660,000 1,364,270,000 93.2
2 India 1,034,253,328 1,295,291,543 81.35
3 United States 327,577,529 317,874,628 103.1
4 Brazil 284,200,000 201,032,714 141.3
5 Russia 256,116,000 142,905,200 155.5

Source: Wikipedia;

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Experts expect China to have 50% of its population on smartphones by the end of 2018.

In 2014, Nordic countries were the first countries to attain this tipping point of 50% of their population on smartphones.

From an advertising perspective, in China, the mobile ad spending is expected to be more than 85 million in 2018 representing 34% of the total media ad spending share.


Operating System (OS)

From an operating system perspective the Chinese market is dominated by Android (a 79% market share according to Baidu ) however leveraging Apple IOS (market share at 18%) might be a good tactic for your APP launch because there is only 1 store to deal with….when you can find more than 500 application stores for Android…which ones will you choose to launch and promote your APP?

Most important Android APP portals in China

  1. Baidu App Store

Baidu is China’s top search engine and has an Android store. A website gives you the possibility to install Android ‘.apk’ files without needing to sign up or download the actual mobile version.

  1. Tencent App Gem

Chinese social media giant (WeChat developer) has its own APP store with a host of resources. It’s now one of the largest in the country. The company uses WeChat to give a boost to App Gem.

  1. Xiaomi App Store

Not only limited to Xiaomi phones, it’s also available as a web app and an Android app that can be installed on any Android phone.

  1. Huawei App Store

As the number 1 phone maker in China, it is growing in prominence and continues to gain traction in its home market.

  1. Qihoo 360 Mobile Assistant

Qihoo is China’s second biggest search engine. It also has a lot of other resources that can be used to bring more traffic to its third-party Android app stores – such as its popular web browsers for the PC and Android.

  1. Wandoujia

Plucky Wandoujia is China’s top independent, startup Android app store with over US$120 million in VC funding to help it battle the nation’s top web firms..

It targets the geekiest of Chinese smartphone users (the App is very well designed and targeted)

  1. 91 Mobile Assistant

This was one of China’s first startup app stores for Android. It was acquired by Baidu (see #1 on this list) in 2013. It still runs under its own name.

  1. HiMarket

Another Baidu acquisition.

Very popular with grey-import Android phones (already installed on this type of device…knowing that preinstalled stores usually cannot be uninstalled).


Specialized in games (initially it was a gaming web portal) but you can find all kinds of apps. has an Android app and a web app.



Competitive advantage

As the market is very competitive we strongly recommend :

  • To not spend too much time planning and getting stuck in a long business development cycle. Your competitors will move fast and you need to execute quickly even if it means taking some risks and altering your product after.
  • Keep in mind some competitors could be well funded and willing to invest a lot of money to incentivize downloads in order to rise to the top of the charts. It is not the biggest fish who often succeeds in China but the fastest and most adaptable.


The Right Business Model ???


Chinese are not very willing to pay for mobile applications, Chinese people are considering the new wave of technology as a way to make their everyday life easier at no initial cost. Here below in the graph, you can see that compared to the United Kingdom where users have at least 8 paid applications on their phones, China smartphone users only have 2 applications paid for on their smartphones.

However most of the application revenue in China is made inside the application, all the purchases are done inside the app, for example, additional features for a game, additional functions for a dating app, inbuilt micro-stores.. etc.



social-media-wechatConsider the possibility to have a local partner in order to overcome the language barrier and bring expertise.

A good user experience (UX) and having relevant content and functionalities for your Chinese users will help you to have more hold and re-attract your audience. For example, the Chinese are fond of education games…it’s critical to listen to local users. This is a key factor explaining why Uber’s competitors were able to gain so much ground so fast because they launched features that made their apps better for the local market, such as the ability to book a specific driver and evaluate the quality of the car, the aesthetic, the driver, etc.

You have to keep updating new features, feature special items when its Chinese new year, the information that you will display on your app has to be really clear and easily accessible, don’t create too many subdivisions, you will easily lose your Chinese target.

You have to create unique content, depending on which kind of strategy you have decided to choose or to rely on. Most of the companies are using mobile applications as an adding value or an extension to their websites, but they don’t optimize this tool that effectively because they want to be present on already established channels, a well designed app can bring your audience to you, be the honey trap… Be creative and original, find an idea that will make you different from the others, in China, it is about being innovative and first to market.

I am sure that you all have seen this dancing app in many other languages (see link below). This dancing application is called “MyIdol”, it is where you can design miniature faces of yourself and then choose the best clothing apparel to dance in. This app has been a huge success, not only in China but also all around the world.

This is a really creative application, it has inbuilt the clever feature of offering the ability to share it with your friends.

It’s also a good idea to create a Chinese-language name for your app to enable easier searching.


Integrate key tools into your Mobile APP

There are some tools that you really need to integrate into your application.

In China QR codes are everywhere, you can actually scan them to get the information that you need by linking users directly to your application. It creates a quick connection between the user and the organization or APP, there is no address to type, instead one can quickly scan.

QR codes can be used in different ways: they can be integrated into your app in order to let your audience enjoy promotions or coupons deals, or you can also lead your customers to your other Social Media Pages.

Payment platforms are also very popular and different in China.

As an example, the Tesco application in South Korea, made grocery shopping easier using this technology. Users scan the products they need and after being scanned they appear on your phone. This has hugely increased sales by 130% online.

Secondly, you can include relevant tools in order to help you promote your application for example; the localization tool, demographic specifications of your audience, user’s interests. The idea is to make your customers loyal to your APP. Catch your users’ attention and encourage repeated usage to get higher returns on investment.


APP Marketing Campaign in China

Mobile Network Ads

You actually have access to a numerous number of mobile ads networks which will help you to generate more downloads and-or make more money. We can give you some popular ad networks and add promotions apps: AppFlood is helping developers to optimize their applications and monetize their traffic. Adwo is a Chinese add promotion platform offering different kinds of solutions to developers and advertisers. They enable you to get revenues by promoting other APPs or by placing advertisements in your APPs (with a different type of monetization such as CPI, CPC, CPM and PPD). If your APP user downloads or clicks on the advertising you get a percentage.


At the beginning of your launch, you can leverage these platforms in order to increase the number of downloads and then appear at the top of the popular APPs results page quickly. Keep in mind this lifting effect won’t last because some of those users will move on and delete you, this type of ‘fad’ marketing is good for a launch but over time you need to develop your e-reputation and word of mouth online and offline.


ASO is not SEO

ASO is standing for app store optimization. Besides choosing the right keywords, you have to update your application at least once every 2 or 3 weeks. Making your application continually fresh is the best way to stay relevant in this fast paced market.

Some of your competitors will copy you and build on what you did right and more importantly, learn from what you’ve done wrong or neglected. To have a fighting chance, you need to stay ahead of them by frequently updating. As an example, Uber, the dominant player in the U.S., has struggled to gain a solid foothold in China where Alibaba-backed Kuaidi Dache and Tencent-backed Didi Dache recently announced a merger that has led to them controlling 99.8% of the on-demand ride market in the middle kingdom.


PR and KOL

Another way to promote your App is to implement a PR strategy:

  • Contact specialized websites that can really influence their users to download your APP.
  • Make an interactive and entertaining video which demonstrates what your APP does and how users will benefit from it.
  • Identify key opinion leaders for mobile APPs and contact them, giving them the chance to review and use your mobile APP.
  • Be open to their comments and be willing to act on them.


By doing all of this you will get more visibility online.

user experience from KOL

KOL Promotion

Social Media


  • In order to create a BUZZ around your APP, you need to establish a presence on Chinese social media and messaging apps: QQ, WeChat, Weibo (these have 800 million monthly active users in China). A presence on these sites and apps will help you to engage with your audience and reinforce word-of-mouth.
  • Also, keep in mind that chatrooms and forums, like Baidu Tieba and Zhihu, are still mainstream venues in China for people to share experiences and opinions. The Chinese are strongly influenced in this way.


more information about Social Media marketing in China 

To conclude, to market your own mobile application is not an easy task but there are many different ways to do it, to take a mixed and comprehensive approach is best.


How to market your APP in China

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